Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Out on a Limb, 1

Good piece at from PC at mnmlssgs on favoured recent releases, all three of them: John Maus' We Must Be The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, Kangding Ray's OR, and Tim Hecker's Ravedeath 1972. The limit's a good thing, much better than your standard December top ten. More of a stand from PC, and easier to engage fully with.
I've not properly heard the John Maus - a quick scan on the computer last night, which revealed... something of genuine interest and invention. Definitely linked with the bleaker, goth-tinged end of seventies synth pop, but not tied to that. Christo at Mind Bomb was baffled by its success:
It seems just like synth waves hypnagogic retromania (sic) for 80s synth pop done by a guy brought up listening to indie music. “Streetlight” has some lovely synths, but the singing just isn’t up to it, while “Quantum Leap” (also known as “Dead Zone” is just a hidden cover of Mission of Burma’s “Academy Flight Song” done with a vocal delivery somewhere between Ian Curtis and Suicide.
which led to my lack of interest, but I will give it a proper go. Also interesting to see the launch of a new book on Maus - Adam Harper's Heaven is Real: John Maus and the Truth of Pop for Sale at The Wire Bookshop.

PC quoted Badiou which certainly resonates with my feelings, and links with much of what's been argued on the lack of adventure in much contemporary music by the likes of Simon Reynolds and Stefan Goldmann:
The audacity of thought is not to repeat 'to the limit' that which is already entirely retained within the situation which the limit limits; the audacity of thought consists in crossing a space where nothing is given.(emphasis mine)

And here's what I said about Tim Hecker:

Tim Hecker seems to be doing this with Ravedeath. Given his previous dissatisfaction with his work as Jetone and the need to work away from rhythmic structures, he's clearly an artist intent on challenging himself. As I wrote for RA, An Imaginary Country offered little beyond a retread of what he'd been doing since Haunt Me..., so he needed a rethink, and found it in Ben Frost. The point you make about time is pertinent here - the tracks seem to snake, swell, bloat, empty, divorced from any sense of strict timekeeping. This reminded me of VDelay's Anima. Pieces within suites bleed into eachother, as do the suites themselves, almost organically. If he's saying anything about the current state of things its that machines have lives of their own (clearly a Frost influence), with the fusion of instrumental and electronic timbres more fused than ever (without completely erasing themselves). Also he's feeding us our own thoughts with titles like 'Hatred of Music' and even the album title, and it sounds lovely! Worth hearing Janek Schaeffer's organ electronics album In the Last Hour for Room 40 alongside, it too is a doozy.

... and Kangding Ray:
I find Kangding more difficult, as he's working from within a predefined genre, and one I'm not personally fond of, and he offers little in terms of breaking out of it. There's no denying the depth and richness of the sounds he uses, which reminds me of a more musical Monolake, with more acoustic tones, but beyond this what does it offer or question? Good to hear voices creep in, but its done in just the way that artists like Burial and Actress have done previously (albeit more sparingly). Yes, he'd be great to hear live and loud, but beyond sound design I'm not sure what he's giving us.

PC has commented that OR is like a culmination of a genre, and also a true album statement, both of which I'd agree with. The former doesn't interest me so much, given my personal distaste for IDM-tinged techno (just can't enjoy that drum programming) but the latter is something at least - OR does proceed like an album in the traditional - almost retro - sense, something rhythmic electronic music has always struggled with. But beyond this...? I'm not so sure.

The genre question is one PC touches on too with regard to house and techno - that maybe all the experimentation and novelty was done by the early nineties, something I'd agree with. Also hinted at is the prospect of an examination of the return of microhouse:
Then there's the 'second coming' of microhouse, with new work from so many of my old heroes (call it Perlon and Playhouse, Kompakt and Krause... and Dial). Are the many returns happy? I think a whole post on Pampa and Re|dial (as the 'houses' of all the microhouse refugees) is warranted. I'm not sure I quite have the interest.

I hope he does, but not sure what can be said on the subject. My view is that all these labels and artists are treading well worn paths, tweaking things slightly, making slight improvements, but doing nothing new, and I mean NOTHING. Deep house in particular, the 'proper' US variety, seems overtly retro in its pursuit of indeterminate soulfulness and its championing of vinyl (something I'm guilty of), reminding me - unpleasantly - of retro jazzbos.

I still buy tons of it. More from me on this later.

For Part 2 I'll highlight my picks for the year so far, those that seem to be doing something new, addressing the strange world we find ourselves in, in line with the electronic focus of the mnmlssgs selections. Not so easy...

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